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Fortune teller for your heart

Posted By Karin Kloosterman On July 30, 2009 @ 9:18 am In | No Comments

An Israeli doctor has developed a technique that can look into your future and tell you if there’s a heart attack lurking there.

Dr. Michael Shechter has treated Hollywood stars, tycoons and Israeli prime ministers. Using a pressurized cuff rather than a crystal ball, he can “see” the state of your heart, three to four years into the future.

Medical tourists from the US are frequent visitors to the Heart Institute at the Sheba Medical Center. They aren’t looking for discounted medical services in Israel. They’re seeking an accurate prognosis of their heart health from 54-year-old Shechter who has perfected a new technique.

His non-invasive brachial artery reactivity test examines blood vessels in the arm to predict heart disease. There is currently no way to look inside the arteries that lead to the heart. But an accurate correlation between those arteries and the elasticity of the endothelial lining of the brachial arteries in the arm has been shown scientifically to be a good predictor of what could happen to your heart in the future.

It is this information that Shechter measures to ‘visualize’ the health of large blood vessels in the arm. If those vessels retain their elasticity you are likely to get a perfect bill of heart health. If not, there are some steps you can take to avoid heart disease, or worse, sudden death.

Widely used in America and Europe, “we were the first to divert this technique to research and clinical purposes,” Shechter tells ISRAEL21c. He has performed prospective studies on the survival rates of people who have undergone the test, and shown that with the right knowledge about their arterial endothelial function, people can up their chances for living a long, full life.

Improving your odds

“It’s a useful test for all kinds of patients,” says Shechter. “We use no radioactive material, it doesn’t take hours, and there is no need for exercise before or during the test.”

Using a blood pressure cuff and the same probe that’s used with an ultrasound machine, Shechter’s device incorporates software visualization tools that allow him to put together a picture of the health of your arteries and if necessary, give you a prescription for their improvement.

A short time ago, a woman asked Shechter to test her 85-year-old husband. “It was his birthday and she wanted to give him a present, so he could know if he would suffer from a heart attack in the next few years,” says Shechter. The prognosis was good, and as a birthday gift Shechter waived his fee.

The doctor’s clinic is always full of patients anxious to learn about the health of their endothelium, which Shechter likens to a factory in the human body. The endothelium produces a number of biological chemicals, including nitric oxide, which regulates the function and flow of our blood vessels.

When endothelial function is lowered, it affects the production of nitric oxide, leading to a series of negative health events like arterial sclerosis, the blockage of blood vessels and eventually, heart disease.

Corn flakes and white bread are out

A number of factors such as diabetes, smoking, diet, obesity and age affect endothelial function. But even seemingly perfectly healthy people may have a lingering problem, or a predisposition to heart disease, that Shechter’s test could pick up.

“If we see a 50 percent reduction in endothelial function in the arm, we can advocate for an aggressive treatment,” he says. This might include lowering one’s bad cholesterol, the LDL, taking statins or getting more exercise. Shechter recently completed a landmark study showing how high glycemic foods – food high in carbs like corn flakes and white bread – adversely affect endothelial health.

“If the endothelium is severely damaged, we are likely to see severe heart failure –– one’s chances of dying are triple compared to if the endothelium is healthy,” he explains.

Trained at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Shechter has worked for three years in the Preventive & Rehabilitative Cardiac Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, one of the best hospitals in the US.

In Israel, in addition to checking the hearts of heads of state and other influential political figures, he has taught at Ichilov Hospital and Rambam Hospital and he currently teaches medical students at Tel Aviv University. Shechter is the senior cardiologist and director of the Clinical Research Unit at the Leviev Heart Center, Chaim Sheba Medical Center-Tel Hashomer, outside Tel Aviv.

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